Travelling to Malaysia and wondering what to bring back as a souvenir? My Malaysia souvenirs guide shows you the best handmade, authentic and ethical souvenirs from Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Melaka, Ipoh, Kota Kinabalu and beyond!
Malaysia is one of the most underrated countries in Southeast Asia. I’ve visited half a dozen times in the last few years, and every time I go to Malaysia, I fall a little bit more in love. One of the things I enjoy most is Malaysia’s vibrant arts scene. With so many cultural influences and tribal traditions at play, there are some really fantastic heritage crafts to be discovered alongside a new crop of young designers and independent retailers.
All I can say is leave some room in your backpack because Malaysia has an awesome shopping scene!
I decided to put this guide together to help you source the best handmade, ethically produced and authentic Malaysia souvenirs. It covers shops in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Ipoh, all places I’ve travelled to recently. I’ve also included Melaka and Kota Kinabalu – destinations I’ve not yet visited but are at the top of the list for my next Malaysia trip.
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Before we start, here are my various Malaysia city guides:
- The essential Kuala Lumpur airport & layover guide
- My complete guide to Ipoh, Malaysia’s coolest city
- Things to do in George Town (Penang)
- Why you should visit Kuching, gem of Borneo
- Kuala Lumpur for first-timers: A classic 24-hour itinerary
Skip ahead to the destinations you plan on visiting, or take a deep scroll through all these gorgeous Malaysia souvenirs and shops!
In This Post
- What are the best Malaysia souvenirs?
- Kuala Lumpur Souvenirs: Where to shop in KL
- Penang Souvenirs: Where to shop in Penang
- Ipoh Souvenirs: Where to shop in Ipoh
- Melaka Souvenirs: Where to shop in Melaka
- Sabah Souvenirs: Where to shop in Kota Kinabalu (Borneo)
- Malaysia food souvenirs you can find anywhere & everywhere!
- Malaysia gifts that keep on giving…
- Malaysia essentials
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What are the best Malaysia souvenirs?
Before I run through souvenir and gift shops in each city, I want to give you a quick overview of Malaysian souvenirs. These are the items to look out for when you’re doing your Malaysia shopping.
Textiles & handicrafts
As you may know, I love textiles, and Malaysia has a lot of different textile traditions. Batik (wax resist printing), Songket (rich embroidery) and Ikat (similar-ish to tie-dye) are all techniques used to craft beautiful homewares and garments.
Rattan weaving is another craft tradition practiced by Malaysia’s ethnic tribes. You can find handmade baskets and woven homewares in stores in Kota Kinabalu and Kuching on the island of Borneo. Catama Borneo (pictured above) works with artisans in Sarawak to keep their weaving traditions alive. They don’t have a shop at the moment, but you can contact them directly if you want to buy their products while you’re in Kuching.
Natural health & beauty products
As well as traditional Chinese medicines and herbal remedies (you can find a list of popular brands at the end of the page), Malaysia has cultivated some interesting contemporary brands. Natural health and beauty is very on trend, and there are a huge number of Malaysian beauty brands taking advantage of the country’s biodiversity to craft their recipes.
Native Body & Skin in Sabah, dUCk natural cosmetics in KL, and Peek A Boo Care in Kuching are all brands I love. ARO Sarawak products also support indigenous communities; their pure virgin coconut oil is sourced ethically from Kudat, North Borneo.
Malaysia’s food scene needs no introduction. Many traditional ingredients used in hawker food can be bought from the local market or even from the supermarket – perfect if you want to re-create your favourite Malaysian dishes at home. I’ve included a list of popular foodie souvenirs at the end of the page.
I have a soft spot for Malaysian antiques, especially leftovers from the British colonial period. I haven’t included any markets in this guide, but you can find flea markets and rummage sales in most cities in Malaysia, especially on Sundays. If you’re lucky enough to attend a local bazaar, look out for melamine plates and tiffin boxes (stackable food containers). There are also a few excellent antique shops in KL.
Papergoods, screenprints & cute things
Another category of Malaysia souvenirs worth mentioning is papergoods. Just about every concept store in Malaysia has a healthy section dedicated to stationery, stickers and art supplies. In a similar vein, screen-printed souvenirs like these gorgeous home textiles from Bingka are excellent gifts. I love the retro designs and cute illustrations found across these products. Malaysia is home to some extremely talented young designers!
Kuala Lumpur Souvenirs: Where to shop in KL
The Batik Boutique
Since launching in 2009, this social enterprise has helped more than 150 artisans – most of them women from low-income families – earn a sustainable living producing scarves, apparel, travel accessories and homewares with contemporary fabrics. Batiks are all house-made and their designs are second to none – the Batik Boutique should be right at the top of your Malaysia souvenirs shopping list. They also host workshops in KL if you want to try batik-ing for yourself!
- 17, Jalan Telawi 3, Bangsar
This hip little boutique stocks KL’s best range of kawaii handmade goods from local and independent designers. With the tagline ‘Collector of Happy Things’, you can expect to find ceramics, art prints, jewellery, clothing, artisan food products (including First Draw soy sauce) and more, all with impeccable packaging. I challenge you not to come away with an armful of colourful souvenirs!
KitaKita presents a thoughtful edit of handicrafts and homewares, all proudly made in Malaysia. Products here are aimed at a more mature audience. Highlights include hand-waxed batiks by veteran designer Cikgu Samsudin, handwoven Mengkuang bookmarks, scarves by Suria Artisan, and laptop ‘puffs’ – nifty lap cushions stitched from heritage fabrics. 10 percent of profits go to assist local artisans and producers.
Sometime by Asian Designers
Sometime partners with select designers from Malaysia and elsewhere in the region to produce limited collections of bags, shoes and synthetic leather accessories. Production takes place at a local factory, the same facility where some of the world’s biggest high-fashion brands make their wares. I especially love these colourful Kita bags created in collaboration with Mimpikita.
The Playground Borneo
- F-K05, 1st Floor, The Gardens Mall
The Playground is a fun-loving boutique that sells headbands, bow ties, jewellery, and other whimsical accessories for kids and adults. The brand behind the shop, Sereni & Shentel, has a cult following in Malaysia. I love their collection of ribbon and rattan women’s bags, designed and handmade in Borneo.
- Lot.52, Level G2, Art Row @ Publika
Formerly known as Outdated, Arcadia specialises in ‘fresh old’ gear – mid-century pieces, salvaged furniture, jukeboxes, and other collectables. The shop is a treasure trove of antique and restored goodies that hark back to Malaysia’s days under the Empire. There are plenty of small items in stock that make good souvenirs, including, I’m sure, a tiffin box or two.
IAMM Museum Shop
- Ground floor, Perdana, Jalan Lembah
The Islamic Art Museum is one of my favourite places to visit in Kuala Lumpur. It houses an exquisite collection of art and handmade objects from the Islamic world. Batiks, scarves, porcelain, wood carvings, books and posters sold at the gift shop all reflect the same intricate designs and attention-to-detail as the objects in the exhibitions next door.
2nd Space by Tabiyo
The brainchild of local brand Tabiyo, 2nd Space trades in artisanal Papergoods from dozens of Malaysian, Japanese and Korean brands, including gorgeous traveller’s notebooks, magazines, stationary, art supplies, and desk accessories. The shop is set inside a double-storey terrace house with a space for DIY workshops downstairs. Note that it’s only open on weekends.
Atlas Gourmet Market
Located in the centre of the city near Petronas Towers, this dining hall and pizzeria doubles as a gourmet food grocer. Atlas stocks a stunning range of fresh produce and artisanal foods, including lots of Malaysian goodies. Langit Collective works with smallholder farms in East Malaysia to produce heirloom rice, pepper and ginger. Their beautifully packaged products make excellent souvenirs.
Ben’s Independent Grocer
- Lot No. 1A, 83-95, Level UG1 Publika
A local favourite, Ben’s is a feast of colours, smells and flavours. This food emporium is divided into specialised ingredient-themed sections and aims to take shoppers on a ‘culinary adventure’. In the Malaya Kitchen area, you can grab a jar of fiery sambal or stock up on your favourite dried noodles and spices. Ben’s has four branches in KL, including a store inside Publika.
If you can’t get enough of cute papergoods, don’t miss Stickerrific. This store is brimming with practical souvenirs for creative types, including opperplate calligraphy sets, Kyoto ink, washi tape, rubber stamps, stickers and the like. Postcards with illustrations of different Malaysian street foods and desserts are particularly popular as souvenirs. There’s Bingka textiles, and an in-house line of stickers named after the shop’s four feline residents, Luke, Leia, Chewie and Han.
Penang Souvenirs: Where to shop in Penang
- 154 Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling
One of my favourite places to shop for Malaysian souvenirs in Penang, Studio Howard sells photographic prints and collages by Penangite artist Howard Tan. His bicycle and trishaw series and ‘doors of Penang’ postcards are just the thing to remind you of your stay. There’s also a fun range of books and small homewares. You can find collections of Studio Howard products sold in hotels, museums and at tourist attractions all over George Town.
This shop has a wide range of food products, books and everyday objects – mostly for those with a house nearby to furnish. Bingka tea towels and batik kids’ toys are among the smaller souvenirs on offer. I love the Penang-inspired tote bags and posters of retro Malay advertisements. Mano Plus also has a shop in KL.
Bon Ton The Shop
Created by The Straights Collection, a hotel and retail chain with properties all over Malaysia, Bon Ton The Shop is a cut above the rest of the shops on the island (in my opinion). Quality jewellery from designers such as CoffeeCovet (made in KL) and Pin & Pine Design sit pretty beside a collection of women’s wear and heritage textiles sourced from all over the region. Their Foursummers batik sarongs are particularly beautiful.
Batek Lah Collection
The owners of Batek Lah have over 30 years’ experience in the industry, making their little shop the place to buy authentic batik in Penang. Block-print and hand-drawn batiks are available as scarves, women’s and men’s clothing, and accessories. Designs are traditional, which means the colours can be quite loud. A contemporary range of high-fashion garments uses a more subdued palette. Everything is handmade locally.
Better Than Blouses
This creative fashion start-up uses hand-picked vintage and antique batik fabrics to make women’s blouses. Everything is hand-sewn locally in limited runs. You can find them popping up at local markets in George Town – or you can order a blouse through Instagram. Every Monday, they announce the week’s fabric. On Wednesdays, they show off the finished blouses and size options. You have to get in quick! They’re proving so popular, I bet Better Than Blouses will have its own shop some day soon.
- 88, Lebuh Campbell
This paper boutique caters to Penang’s creative crowd. Nove rubber stamps, Paper Ink custom calligraphy and works by Black Milk Project all make for cute Malaysia souvenirs. The collection is global, but needless to say the Penang street food illustrations are my top pick! If you find yourself north of George Town, Writer Store has a second branch inside Gurney Plaza.
Ghee Hup Nutmeg Factory
- MK 3, 202A, Jalan Tanjung Bungah
For something a bit left of centre, pay a visit to Ghee Hup Nutmeg Factory on the outskirts of Penang. Run by Mr. Chang Kun Mim since 1953, it’s a huge property. You can take a tour to see how various traditional food and medicinal products are made. There is a small shop on-site selling all kinds of yummies. Nutmeg oil , renowned in Chinese medicine for its curative properties, is easy to transport home and makes for a great gift.
Ipoh Souvenirs: Where to shop in Ipoh
22 Hale Street
- 22, Jalan Tun Sambanthan
22 Hale Street is one of my favourite places to spend a few hours in Ipoh. Inside the heritage building there’s a cafe, an exhibition space and a gift shop where you can find lovely Malaysia souenirs, including vintage-style china plates and tiffin boxes. One of the handicraft brands represented, Persatuan DAYBREAK, is a vocational training centre for people with disabilities.
Lifeshop sells a nice range of beauty and home products. But it’s their linen apparel line that I love best. Bright colours and loose-fitting designs are perfectly suited to Malaysia’s climate. If you’re shopping for your Malaysia souvenirs in KL, Lifeshop also has several branches in the capital.
Kong Heng Square
- 75, Jalan Bandar Timah
This urban redevelopment in the centre of Ipoh’s old town houses hip cafes, a boutique hotel, and half a dozen cute souvenir shops. One corner of the complex, Kong Heng Square Artisan Market, is devoted to local makers: The Ipoh Craftnerds, The Living Art, and AM Zakka. Each one sells sweet take-me-homes.
Melaka Souvenirs: Where to shop in Melaka
Tham Siew Inn Artist Gallery
Established in the 1990s by one of Melaka’s favourite sons, artist Tham Siew Inn, this gallery accommodates a vast collection of watercolours, prints, antiques and knickknacks accumulated by its owner. The shop is an attraction in itself. Set in a charming Melaka-style shophouse with a central atrium, it’s a wonderful place to cool off and snap a few Instagram photos.
The Orangutan House
- 59 Lorong Hang Jebat
Another fascinating creative space in Melaka dreamed up by a local artist. Most people know this institution because of the colourful artwork that decorates the shopfront. Inside, The Orangutan House is a studio-gallery that stocks t-shirts, paintings, prints, and other creations by founder Charles Cham. There is a now a second Orangutan House on Jonker Street.
Sabah Souvenirs: Where to shop in Kota Kinabalu (Borneo)
Kadaiku is a one-stop shop for Malaysian souvenirs. Their range of local handicrafts includes Bayung woven baskets and authentic products made by members of Borneo’s Kelarai, Bajau, Rungus and Murut tribes. There’s also apparel and jewellery, including beaded Pinakol (pictured). Poprina natural cosmetics, gift boxes of Sabah tea, and native wildlife plush toys round out the range.
With three locations in Kota Kinabalu, Galleria Artisan is Sabah’s best-known handicraft store. Working in collaboration with Menara Tun Mustapha museum in Keningau, Galleria Artisan aims to promote traditional Sabahan crafts and provide a platform for makers to enter the international market. Two local brands, Bayu Craft and Batik Bayu, are stocked here, as well as accessories such as woven Rinago handbags. You can often see batik demonstrations in-store.
Salt x Paper
Every city in Malaysia has at least one sweet papergoods boutique. Salt x Paper is Kota Kinabalu’s resident store. Craft supplies, stationary, gift cards and inks are sold alongside homewares and collectables. House-brand stationary is created in collaboration with some of the country’s best designers. They also stock Bingku tea towels.
- 1, Tanjung Aru
Borneo used to be one of the world’s top cocoa producers – until most of the cocoa trees were replaced with oil-palm plantations. Founded in 2009, Malaysia’s first artisanal chocolate brand aims to revive this lost industry, using a bean-to-bar philosophy to create sustainable and fair trade chocolate products. Their shop, KK Chocolate House in Kota Kinabalu, is a veritable emporium of sweet treats.
Malaysia food souvenirs you can find anywhere & everywhere!
These ubiquitous Malaysian products can be found in just about every grocery shop or pharmacy in the country. If you run out of room in your suitcase (or you get a craving when you’re back home!), you can also find a lot of these brands online.
When buying food products in Malaysia, look out for brands with Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification. Remember that certain countries have strict rules around what you can and can’t bring in. Check the relevant website for what you need to declare on the way home.
You can’t visit Malaysia and not try iconic white coffee. First developed in Ipoh, it’s prepared by soaking roasted coffee beans in margarine then serving the brewed coffee with sugar and milk over ice. Instant white coffee and white coffee powder sachets are almost as good as the real thing.
Old Town White Coffee is far and away the most famous brand (there are flagship cafe-shops everywhere, including inside KL’s Central Market). Chek Hup and Home’s Cafe are also popular. Here is the packaging to look out for:
Planning a visit to the Cameron Highlands? If you’ve seen photos of the vast tea plantations, you’ll know that Malaysia has a thriving chai industry. Boh Tea is easily the most recognisable brand of tea in Malaysia, followed by organic Sabah tea, which is grown on Borneo. You can also buy sachets of Teh Tarik, Malaysia’s yummy ‘pulled’ tea.
Dodol & other sweets
To say Malaysia has a sweet tooth would be an understatement! Traditional candies such as dodol (a toffee-like sugar palm lolly), candied durian and even durian chocolate are all easy to find and small enough to stash in your suitcase.
Curry powder, pastes & fresh spices
What do Indian, Chinese, Hainanese, Malay and Peranakan cuisines have in common? They’re all found in Malaysia, and they all make heavy use of aromatics.
A good quality spice mix is one of the best things you can bring back from Malaysia, especially if you want to recreate your favourite street food dishes at home. Fresh spices from the local market are ideal, but packaged pastes and powders are easier to transport. A1 Bak Kut Teh Spices, Baba’s, Brahim’s, Ayan and Yeo’s are all popular Malaysian brands.
Did you know that four of the top 10 best instant noodles of all time are made by Malaysian brands? MyKuali Penang White Curry Instant Noodles are a cult favourite – you could say they are to Malaysia what instant ramen is to Japan.
Red Chef Green Tom Yum Soup, Red Chef Sakura Prawn Soup Noodles and CarJEN Nyonya Curry Laksa also made the top 10 list. Have fun browsing the supermarket aisles for the most colourful packaging and intriguing ingredient combos!
Herbal teas & tinctures
Chinese medicines and herbal remedies are still very much a part of daily life for many Malaysians. Kien Fatt Medical Store in Kuala Lumpur is one of many old-fashioned, family run medicine halls still operating today.
Balms, serums and tinctures concocted from herbs can be found at most local pharmacies in Malaysia. Even big brands such as 7Eleven have a Chinese medicine section. Typically done up in gorgeous retro packaging, they make for great gifts or mementos.
Cheong Kim Chuan Nutmeg oil and balm, praised for soothing muscle cramps, is sold at a flagship shop in Penang and in pharmacies around Malaysia. Ho Yan Hor is a wildly popular brand of medicinal tea used to curb cold, flu, and other ailments. In Ipoh, you can visit the house museum where the brand’s founder had his first shop.
Here are a few popular tea brands to look out for:
Malaysia gifts that keep on giving…
If you’re looking for an alternative gift or you prefer to spend your souvenir money elsewhere, consider donating to one of these conservation or social causes instead.
- Adopt an Orangutan at Semenggoh Reserve in Kuching. RM 200 (about $50) is enough to sponsor an orangutan for a whole year. More information here.
- Buy a cute t-shirt or kids’ gift and support the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers. Visit the MYCAT online store.
- Donate to WWF Malaysia. You’ll even get a cute souvenir as a thank-you in return. More information here.
- Consider a contribution to UNICEF to support their critical work providing healthcare and clean drinking water to children in Malaysia.
- Support The Lost Food Project, Malaysia’s leading food bank that helps thousands of people access nutritious meals.
- There are lots of worthy causes out there – have a look online for something you’re passionate about!
If you love shopping for local products and authentic gifts as much as I do, here are more souvenir guides from around the world to inspire you:
- Hanoi, Vietnam – souvenir guide and shopping map
- The best souvenirs and gifts from Tbilisi, Georgia
- Armenian souvenirs and Yerevan shopping guide
- What to take home from Oman
Here are some of the resources I use when planning a trip to Malaysia.
– Find affordable flights to Malaysia on Kiwi.com, a booking site that mixes and matches airlines to find the best route (if you miss your connection, you get your money back).
– Use iVisa to check if you need a tourist visa for Malaysia and apply for an expedited visa online.
– Pre-book a private transfer from Kuala Lumpur Airport to your hotel or pre-purchase your KLIA Airport Train tickets online and skip the queue.
– Pre-order a local sim card and pick it up when you land at KL airport.
– Find the best hotel deals in Malaysia on Agoda, book a Malaysia hostel, or find a unique Airbnb (sign up with this link for $55 AUD credit).
– Buy your bus or train tickets online in advance using 12GoAsia.
– Find the best cooking classes and foodie experiences in Malaysia.
– Find the best city tours and day excursions in Malaysia.
– Pick up a copy of the latest Lonely Planet guidebook for Malaysia.
– Short on time? Try this KL layover city tour.
What are your favourite Malaysia souvenirs? Where do you like to shop in Kuala Lumpur? Drop your recommendations in the comments below!